Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oy Canada? Private vs Public Options

By definition, the Canadian health care system is a "Public Option;" private plans are outlawed (something to which we may look forward). But all is not well for the Canadian system:
As we've reported numerous times, the Canadian system is wonderful, until you actually need care. Then it's still free, but inaccessible. The LA Times tells the story of a 72 year old Canadian woman with chronic hip pain, who would have had to wait for a year and a half for surgery (after waiting a year for the diagnosis in the first place). Rather than live with the pain, she popped over to Montana (yes, Montana!) for the surgery, which set her back some $50,000 (the story doesn't indicate if this was real or Canadian money). Of course she wasn't thrilled with that, but it sure beat living with the pain.
But some Canadian doc's, loathe to seeing those health care dollars and cents fleeing south of the border, are trying something to discourage such excursions:
"Hoping to capitalize on patients who might otherwise go to the U.S. for speedier care, a network of technically illegal private clinics and surgical centers has sprung up in British Columbia, echoing a trend in Quebec. In October, the courts will be asked to decide whether the budding system should be sanctioned."
"Technically illegal." Interesting word choice; doesn't that just mean "illegal?" So the doc's are breaking the law in order to treat their patients in an appropriate time-frame, and they're willing to risk potential jail time (or at least substantial fines) to do so. Sounds like market forces at work.
Unfortunately, these physicians are somewhat naive:
"You cannot force a citizen in a free and democratic society to simply wait for healthcare, and outlaw their ability to extricate themselves from a wait list."
So opines Dr Brian Day, who runs one such clinic. He obviously hasn't heard of our Senator Max Baucus, who thinks it's perfectly peachy to arrest folks who choose to go uninsured. I'm sure the Honorable Senator would have no problem throwing offending physicians into the hoosegow, as well.
Still, as we see a shrinking Canadian system (shortfalls are causing even more delays and fewer tests), perhaps our own political class will take note. As unlikely as that may seem, consider this: public support for grandiose "reform" is at a record low, and heading south fast. It's still possible that we may avoid the tragic fate of our Neighbors to the North©.
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